Year of Publication

2011

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Education

Department

Educational and Counseling Psych

First Advisor

Dr. Pam Remer

Second Advisor

Dr. Rory Remer

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to investigate the process of forgiveness and the relationship among state forgiveness, self-compassion, and psychological well-being experienced by Buddhists in the United States. An integral feminist framework was developed for this mixed-method study.

For the quantitative component of this study, a convenience sample of 112 adults completed an online survey. Multiple regression analysis was performed to examine: (a) the impact of gender, age, and the years spent in Buddhist practice on state forgiveness and self-compassion; (b) the outcome of psychological well-being in relation to state forgiveness and self-compassion; and (c) self-compassion as a mediator for the relationship between state forgiveness and psychological well-being. Quantitative results indicated: (a) state forgiveness positively predicted psychological well-being; (b) the years spent in Buddhist practice positively predicted self-compassion; (c) self-compassion positively predicted psychological well-being; and (d) self-compassion partially mediated the relationship between state forgiveness and psychological well-being. Age did not predict any of the three primary variables. Gender did not predict state forgiveness.

For the qualitative component of this study, this researcher purposefully selected four adults from a local Buddhist community in central Kentucky and conducted two in-depth interviews to explore their subjective experiences of forgiveness within their own contexts. A holistic-content narrative analysis revealed unique features of each interviewee’s forgiveness process interwoven with the socio-cultural, family and relational contexts. From a phenomenological analysis, common themes and elements of the interviewees’ forgiveness processes emerged. Qualitative findings corresponded to the quantitative results concerning state forgiveness as a route to psychological well-being, the positive relationship between Buddhist practice and compassion, and the role of self-compassion in the relationship between state forgiveness and psychological well-being. Qualitative findings also suggested the following. First, two-way compassion toward self and the offender was a facilitating factor for forgiveness that may be unique to Buddhists. Second, one’s actual experience of forgiveness may encompass not only cognitive, affective, and behavioral changes, but also transformation of self and perspective on meaning and purpose in life. Third, Enright and his colleagues’ (1998) stage and process models of forgiveness were useful to understand Buddhists’ experiences and processes of forgiveness.

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